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Gardening tips and resources

If you've never grown anything edible, don't think you have to order an expensive raised bed or a bunch of tools. You can plant directly in the ground -- or in a garden pot, a bowl, a laundry basket. Shallow-rooted plants can even grow in a plastic swimming pool or sled with sides.

Start easy: Beans, peppers and tomatoes are good choices for new gardeners -- and they're wanted by the food banks. Most herbs are easy, too. You can plant seeds directly in the soil or buy transplants.

About beans: There are two kinds, bush and pole. The pole beans are on vines and need to grow on something, like a trellis or sunflower stalk.

Ask for help. Contact the local Extension office in Fairfax County/Falls Church or Prince William or send us your questions by clicking the button below.

Put aside perfectionism. Take in the fresh air and enjoy watching your plant grow. And if it doesn't make it, so what? Seeds are cheap -- or free from friends. Just plant again.

Scroll down for more tips.

If you're a Grow a Row gardener facing a challenge, send us your questions, photos and videos by clicking the button below.

Planning and planting tips

Pick a location that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight and is accessible to water.

Size the garden to what you're willing to weed once a week and water regularly during drought.

If the soil is mostly clay, add organic matter like compost (Leafgro is a common commerical brand). If you plan to plant in a container, buy potting mix. If you want to use a raised bed, fill it with a mix of topsoil and compost.

Before planting, read the directions on the seed packet or transplant pot.

If you're using transplants, take plants out of plastic pots before putting them in the ground.

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Gardening resources

Where to buy seeds, plants & supplies

Brown's Hardware (703-532-1168) keeps its transplants and soil outside the store.

Meadows Farms and Merrifield Garden Center have curbside pick-up and delivery.

M&J Organics and Veteran Compost have pick-up and delivery of compost, topsoil and mixes.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Seed Savers Exchange

To read

Virginia Cooperative Extension's many  Home Vegetable Gardening guides for beginning gardeners, especially:

Crop-specific guides, including ones for beans, peppers and tomatoes

When to plant what (we're in Zone 7a)

Planning the vegetable garden

Container and raised bed gardening

Kids in the garden

Someday, the school year will end.

Here are a few resources for keeping kids busy for the weeks after that. More links will pop up in the blog.


Math and technology with this square foot gardening planner

History of Victory Gardens with cool photos and recipes

If you don't want to buy

Reserve tools, from trowels and hoses to a wheelbarrow, from the Fairfax Food Council's tool lending program.

Ask Grow a Row FC for seeds or tomato/bell pepper transplants.

To watch

Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Fairfax Food Council's  How to Start a Garden workshop.

Get Gardening! Beginning gardening series on Facebook Live

Online tools

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